Tag Archives: Equal opportunities

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors' assets

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Justice freedom and security > Judicial cooperation in civil matters

Enforcing judgments: the transparency of debtors’ assets

Even with a court judgment obtained, recovering cross-border debts may be difficult for creditors in practice if no information on the debtors’ assets or whereabouts is available. Because of this, the European Commission has adopted a Green Paper launching a public consultation on how to improve the recovery of debts through possible measures such as registers and debtor declarations.

Document or Iniciative

Green Paper of 6 March 2008 on the effective enforcement of judgments in the European Union: the transparency of debtors’ assets [COM(2008) 128 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The late and non-payment of debts is detrimental to business and customers alike, particularly when no information is available on the debtor’s assets or whereabouts. This is a particular cross-border issue in debt recovery and has the potential to affect the smooth running of the internal market. In launching a public consultation, the European Commission has outlined the problems of the current situation and possible solutions in this Green Paper. Interested parties can submit their comments by 30 September 2008.

State of play

The search for a debtor’s address and information on his financial situation is often the starting point for enforcement proceedings. At national level, most Member States mainly use two different systems for obtaining information, either:

  • systems of declaration of the debtor’s entire assets or at least a part of it to satisfy the claim;
  • search systems with specific information (registers).

In this Green Paper, the European Commission focuses more on a series of measures instead of one single European measure to allow the creditor to obtain reliable information on the debtor’s assets and whereabouts within a reasonable period of time. Possible measures include:

  • drawing up a manual of national enforcement laws and practices: at present, there is very little information on the different enforcement systems in the 27 European Union Member States. Such a manual could contain all sources of information on a person’s assets, which could be accessed in each country; contact addresses, costs, etc.
  • increasing the information available and improving access to registers: the main sources of information on the debtor are public registers, such as commercial or population registers. However, these vary from one Member State to the next. The Commission is asking whether to increase information available in and access to commercial registers and in what way access to existing population registers should be enhanced. Furthermore, access to social security and tax registers by enforcement authorities may be increased, while respecting rules of data protection and social and fiscal privacy.
  • exchange of information between enforcement authorities: currently, enforcement bodies are not able to directly access the (non-public) registers of other Member States which are open to national enforcement bodies. In addition, there are no international instruments dealing with the exchange of information between national enforcement bodies. In the absence of a Europe-wide register, enhancing cooperation between national enforcement authorities and direct exchange of information between them may a possible solution.
  • measures relating to the debtor’s declaration: enforcement bodies have in several Member States the option to question the debtor directly regarding his assets, whereas in some Member States the debtor’s declaration is made in the form of a testimony before the enforcement court. In some Member States, the debtor has to fill out mandatory forms, and in others a debtor’s declaration does not exist at all. The European Commission is considering introducing a European Assets declaration, obliging the debtors to disclose all assets in the European judicial area. In this way, the transparency of the debtor’s assets would not be limited by the territoriality of the enforcement proceedings.

Equal opportunities report 2001

Equal opportunities report 2001

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Equal opportunities report 2001

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Equal opportunities report 2001

To present an overview of the main developments and achievements in the field of equal opportunities in 2001 – at both European and national level – and to describe the outlook for 2002.

2) Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission, of 28 May 2002, to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Annual Report on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the European Union 2001 [COM(2002) 258 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

3) Summary

Framework strategy on gender equality (2001-2005)

The Community framework strategy, adopted in June 2000, is aimed both at integrating the gender dimension in all Community policies that have an impact on the equal opportunities objective (principle of mainstreaming) and at promoting the introduction of specific measures to reduce inequalities. In 2001, noticeable progress was made with regard to both the integration of gender issues in the various policies and the introduction of specific measures.

As regards the mainstreaming of gender equality in Community policies, significant advances were noted in a number of areas, including the following:

  • enterprise: a study aimed at identifying and evaluating good practices in relation to the promotion of female entrepreneurship was launched, while another study to assess the gender impact of the “Innovation and SMEs” specific programme within the 5th framework research programme (1998-2002) was finalised and published recently.
  • Broad Economic Policy Guidelines: the Belgian Presidency of the European Union (EU) – July-December 2001 – launched an initiative to strengthen gender mainstreaming in the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines;
  • the Barcelona process: under the MEDA programme for cooperation with southern Mediterranean countries, a regional forum on the role of women in economic development was held in Brussels in July 2001;
  • education and continuing training: an action plan for gender equality (2001-2002) was adopted by the Socrates Committee in February 2001. The first phase is concerned with evaluating the gender dimension and the second phase with identifying indicators for improving the implementation of gender equality;
  • humanitarian aid: in 2001, the European Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) continued to incorporate the gender dimension in humanitarian aid. For example, it funded projects focusing on the specific needs of women, particularly in Iraq, Serbia and Afghanistan;
  • the employment strategy: in connection with the adoption of the annual employment package, on 12 September 2001 the Commission sent a set of recommendations to eleven Member States encouraging them to strengthen equality between women and men;
  • combating violence and trafficking: implementation of the DAPHNE and STOP programmes continued in 2001 and the Commission adopted a new STOP II programme (to run until 2003). The implementation of the STOP II programme provided an opportunity to focus on assisting and protecting women who are the victims of violence;
  • the social inclusion process: in June 2001, the Member States drew up their first biennial national action plans based on common objectives to combat poverty and social exclusion. In these plans, most Member States identified higher risks of poverty and social exclusion among elderly women, single parents and victims of domestic violence. Even though many Member States are committed to enhancing the mainstreaming of the gender dimension over the next two years, there is still a lot to be done to find a consistent approach to gender needs and characteristics across all the strands of these plans.

As provided for in Decision 2000/407/EC of 19 June 2007, the Commission is committed to achieving a male/female balance in committees and expert groups, with a target of 40% minimum participation of both women and men. Following a first survey in 2000 among certain expert groups of the Commission in which an average of only 13.5% of the members were women, a second, much more comprehensive survey was conducted in 2001. In that year, the average percentage of women in all the Commission’s committees and expert groups was 28.8%. Among the members of those committees and expert groups for which the Commission had the right of appointment, 30.5% were women, whilst among the committees and groups on whose membership the Commission had no influence 28.4% were women.

The Member States continued to carry out a whole series of activities aimed at promoting equality between women and men and mainstreaming the gender dimension. The many initiatives taken include the example set by Austria, which adopted a project aimed at increasing the presence of women in the technology sector, especially IT. In Sweden, the law on equality between men and women was strengthened in January 2001. In the United Kingdom, a new government telephone helpline “Equality Direct” – backed up by a website – designed to provide firms with free information and advice on all equality-related issues was set up.

Equal pay was the priority theme chosen for 2001 under the Community framework strategy on gender equality and the associated funding programme. It was chosen because it is the most visible inequality in the European labour market. Despite the existence of legal provisions on this subject, women still earn an average of 14% less than men (in 1997, this difference was more pronounced in the private sector – 19% – than in the public sector – 10%).

The high profile given to the issue of equal pay was reflected in the conclusions of the Stockholm European Council (March 2001), which called on the Council and the Commission to develop appropriate indicators. This preparatory work enabled the Belgian Presidency to produce a set of indicators on pay differentials between women and men. Moreover, in September 2001 the European Parliament adopted a report on equal pay, which confirmed that a diversified approach would have to be adopted by all parties, whether European institutions, Member States or social partners, in order to obtain tangible results. The European Employment Strategy also plays an important part in achieving the objective of equal pay. Following the evaluation of the national plans for 2001, certain Member States announced various initiatives aimed at reducing pay differentials. However, the efforts will have to be continued if these initiatives are to come to anything and the social partners are to take an active part. Lastly, it is important to stress that the majority of the 27 projects selected in 2001 under the action programme address the issue of equal pay. Their funding amounts to a total of around 8 million euro. The first results of these projects are expected in 2003.

The following priority themes have been chosen for the programme on gender equality over the next few years:

  • 2001-2002: equal pay;
  • 2002-2003: reconciliation of work and family life;
  • 2003-2004: women in decision-making;
  • 2004-2005: gender stereotyping.

Legal developments

Substantial progress was made in 2001 on the proposal to amend the 1976 Directive on equal treatment in employment. The amended Directive is expected to break new ground in a number of important areas, including:

  • recognition of sexual harassment as discrimination on grounds of sex;
  • encouraging employers to prepare annual equality plans;
  • strengthening of the provisions concerning the judicial protection and compensation available to individuals in the event of discrimination;
  • strengthening of persons’ rights regarding maternity or paternity leave.

In response to questions put by national courts about cases relating to gender equality, the Court of Justice of the European Communities handed down three major rulings in 2001:

  • the judgements given in the Melgar and Tele Danmark cases, according to which instances of dismissal or non-renewal of an open-ended employment contract by reason of pregnancy constitute direct and unjustifiable discrimination on grounds of sex;
  • the Menauer case, in which the Court held that German pension funds entrusted with administering occupational pension schemes were bound by the principle of equal pay in the same way as an employer;
  • the Griesmar and Mouflin cases relating to two provisions of the French Civil and Military Pensions Code that discriminate against men, which were declared incompatible with Community law.

As regards the main developments in Member States’ legislation, a Finnish collective agreement provides that every sector can henceforth create a special equality allowance, which is designed to raise the remuneration of women who are not paid sufficiently well despite the difficulty of their work and their education in traditionally low-paid industrial sectors. In Denmark, the Equal Pay Act has been amended so that it is now more transparent. As far as national case law is concerned, the UK Employment Appeals Tribunal has broadened the definition of “comparator” so as to allow an employee of a local authority to compare him or herself with an employee of another local authority even where the two salary scales had been agreed independently. Paternity leave has been introduced in Greece and legislation on this subject has been proposed in France, Finland and the UK. Moreover, Greece, Ireland and the Netherlands have introduced legislation on the extension of maternity leave.

Equality in the enlargement process

The work of transposing European legislation on equal opportunities is under way in the candidate countries, some of which already obtained good results in 2001. However, the legislation in itself is not sufficient. The introduction of support mechanisms is just as essential to the achievement of gender equality. In this context, it is vital to have institutional and administrative structures that facilitate the implementation of and respect for rights relating to equality. Substantial efforts still need to be made in this direction.

Outlook for 2002

In 2002, the spotlight will be on reconciliation of work and family life. Various initiatives will be launched at European level in order to raise the profile of this issue, to finance transnational projects, to improve the statistics and indicators and to draw up a report on the application of the parental leave Directive.

The Commission will also submit a proposal for a directive on discrimination on the grounds of sex. This new legal basis will make it possible to take action in areas other than employment and social security, which at present constitute the relatively limited field of application of Community law on equality.

In 2002, the fight against trafficking in women and violence and the enhancement of the importance given to gender equality in the EU’s external policies and the actions of the Structural Funds will continue to be policy priorities. Lastly, in line with the current evaluation of the participation of women in the decision-making process and with an eye to the European Parliament elections in 2004, the Commission plans to focus its activities in 2003 on promoting the gender balance in decision-making.

4) Implementing Measures

5) Follow-Up Work

Report from the Commission, of 5 March 2003, to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Annual Report on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the European Union 2002 [COM(2003) 98 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

 

Report on equal opportunities 2002

Report on equal opportunities 2002

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Report on equal opportunities 2002

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Report on equal opportunities 2002

To present an overview of the main developments and achievements in the field of equal opportunities in 2002, both at European and at national level, and to describe the outlook for 2003.

2) Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission, of 5 March 2003, to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Annual Report on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men in the European Union in 2002 [COM(2003) 98 Final – Not published in the Official Journal].

3) Summary

ENLARGEMENT

2002 was an historic year in the European Union (EU) enlargement process as it saw the conclusion of accession negotiations with 10 candidate countries. The period leading up to their entry into the EU on 1 May 2004 will therefore be an opportunity to step up monitoring and support for these countries in the final stages of their preparation for full membership. In this context the action programme for equal opportunities was opened up to candidate countries in 2002.

Legal Transposition

In the field of equal opportunities nine European Directives had to be transposed. The majority of accession countries, in particular Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, are fairly well advanced in the process of alignment with this acquis. Cooperation will continue with Romania and Bulgaria who have made significant progress towards alignment with Community law.

Implementing structures

Transposing the law is not enough in itself. It is equally important to establish adequate institutional and administrative structures, in particular equality organisations and mediators as well as independent advisory bodies. Several countries, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Poland have already set up structures of this nature. In both Cyprus and Malta the administrative capacities needed to transpose the Community acquis are in place but need to be further strengthened.

The socio-economic dimension

There is a marked contrast between the current Member States and the accession countries in socio-economic terms. For many years there was a strong presence of women on the labour market in the accession countries, but their numbers fell significantly during the early years of the transition. Levels of unemployment are high among both women and men, particularly in Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and the Slovak Republic. Moreover, men’s participation in the labour market is lower than the EU average and therefore the gender gap in terms of both employment and unemployment is narrower than in the EU. However, as in the Member States, labour markets in the accession countries are strongly gender segregated and the salary gap is wider still. There is a general recognition of the need for a gender mainstreaming policy and strategy but the necessary tools are lacking. Furthermore, beyond the basic provisions for maternity and parental leave, there have been very few developments in terms of family-friendly working-time arrangements.

Cooperation in the field of social inclusion mainly consists of preparing Joint Inclusion Memoranda, the aim of which is to prepare the accession countries for full participation in the European Social Inclusion Process from the date of accession. The memoranda will be finalised by the end of 2003 and, for accession countries, represent a major step towards establishing their first National Action Plans in 2005 to combat poverty and social exclusion.

As regards the role of women in decision-making, it is important that women in accession countries are able to reap the benefits of existing Community law on male-female equality. When European elections are held in June 2004 women will have to be in a position to take on their role, equal to that of men, in decision-making and political life. In 2003 the Commission will concentrate its activities on the promotion of gender balance in decision-making which will provide a basis for action and exchange on this theme between accession countries and Member States.

FRAMEWORK STRATEGY FOR GENDER EQUALITY

The strategy for gender mainstreaming has proved an efficient tool in the promotion of equality between men and women. Gender mainstreaming combined with specific actions, legislation and financing programmes in particular, constitutes the dual approach covered by the framework strategy for gender equality.

The European Employment Strategy

In 2002 the Commission carried out an evaluation of the European Employment Strategy which revealed that more emphasis is being put on the gender equality issue, even in the Member States that were “lagging behind”, and the gap between the sexes has narrowed in terms of employment and unemployment rates. Nevertheless these inequalities are still too marked and a lot remains to be done in order to overcome them. Furthermore, substantial progress still has to be made in the development of child-care facilities.

The Structural Funds

In this area gender equality policy is also based on the dual approach of specific measures along with gender mainstreaming across all Structural Fund operations. This dual approach is most advanced in the European Social Fund (ESF), the EU’s main financial support tool for the European Employment Strategy. Most of the initiatives aimed at reducing gender inequalities focus on employment and are funded by the ESF. Gender mainstreaming has proved more difficult in other Structural Fund areas such as transport, the environment and rural development.

As regards improving the promotion of gender equality through the Structural Funds, only a few programmes using the funds in the Member States have adopted a global gender mainstreaming strategy. Moreover, the majority of these programmes lack clear targets and monitoring in terms of gender equality.

The Social Inclusion Process

The European Social Inclusion Process has been developed to support Member States in their fight against poverty and social exclusion. The Member States draw up National Action Plans on the basis of the common objectives set out by the Council of Ministers. They have also been asked to include gender mainstreaming in all their strategies for combating poverty and social exclusion.

The gender dimension did not feature strongly in the first National Action Plans submitted in 2001, but in July 2002 the Ministers agreed to enhance this aspect of the plans which added great impetus to successful gender mainstreaming. In the next round, due in July 2003, the National Action Plans are expected to put more emphasis on specific actions on gender and demonstrate gender mainstreaming throughout.

The gender dimension in the national strategies on pension

Although women are in the majority amongst old people, most pension schemes have traditionally been designed for men who support a family and work full time without taking a career break. The first national reports, submitted in September 2002, show that many pension systems still reflect these basic principles. In many countries, in fact, women’s pensions remain, on average, significantly lower than men’s. However, there is some evidence that the Member States are gradually adapting their systems in line with developments in the social and economic role of women and men, although the effects of such changes are not likely to be felt for some time.

Other policies

In the field of research and development the Commission intends to create a European Platform for women scientists aimed at promoting female scientists and involving them more actively in shaping the science policy debate at national and European level. Furthermore, in December 2002 the Commission published its first calls for proposals under the 6th Community Research Framework Programme among which was a call for proposals concerning women and scientific activities.

In May 2002, in response to the Commission’s Communication entitled “Making a European area of lifelong learning a reality”, the Council adopted a Resolution which recognises equal opportunities as one of the fundamental principles behind the concept of lifelong learning. It also views ongoing training for women, particularly within companies, as an essential goal.

The Commission’s Directorate-General (DG) Environment included gender mainstreaming in its Management Plan. Significant progress has been made in the field of waste, water, marine and soil management in which gender impact studies have been undertaken.

POLICIES AND SPECIFIC ACTIONS FOR GENDER EQUALITY

Legislation

Directive 76/207/EEC on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards employment, professional training and promotion and working conditions was amended in September 2002. One of the key amendments dealt with sexual harassment at work. For the first time at European level a binding law now defines sexual harassment and prohibits it as a form of discrimination based on sex. Although the Member States have until 2005 to conform to the Directive’s new provisions, the majority of them have already adopted measures aimed at combating sexual harassment, particularly Belgium, France, Finland and Ireland.

Several national courts have been called on to pass judgement on the issue of equal pay. In the Netherlands, for example, a court has ruled in favour of a care worker who brought a claim over equal pay.

In 2002 several Member States took initiatives to facilitate the reconciliation of work with family life. Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, Catalonia and Germany have actually adopted measures along these lines.

The action programme

Equality of pay between women and men was the main theme in 2001, the first year of the programme, because the salary gap between men and women is one of the most striking inequalities that women face in their professional lives. The majority of the projects chosen in the framework of the Action Programme dealt with issues of equal pay. The results are due in 2003 but, since the projects run for 15 months, several conferences on the subject were held in 2002 and provided an opportunity to underline the persistence of the equal pay issue.

The reconciliation of work and family life was the priority in 2002. This is an essential part of the gender dimension in the European employment strategy and in the social inclusion process. It aims to ensure favourable conditions for women and men for entering, returning to and remaining on the job market. This includes access to quality, affordable childcare services, an equal division of childcare and domestic responsibilities, encouraging fathers to take parental leave and the possibility of flexible working arrangements both for men and women. In response to the calls for proposals under the Gender Equality Programme, 18 projects on this theme were selected in 2002 under the action programme.

In 2003 the emphasis will be on women in decision-making. Attaining political parity remains a concern both at Member State and European level. Although several Member States have introduced legislation in this field, the results of recent national elections failed to live up to expectations. In France, for example, the equality law did not have the desired effect of balancing representation either in the local or parliamentary elections. Several Member States such as Belgium, Ireland, Spain and the UK are now tackling the issue of gender-balanced political representation.

In 2004-2005 priority will be given to the theme of male and female stereotypes.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Trafficking in human beings

The fight against trafficking in human beings is one of the EU’s political priorities. In 1996 the EU launched the STOP programme in support of actions aimed at combating the trafficking of human beings and the sexual exploitation of children. In September 2002, the European conference “Preventing and combating trafficking in human beings – Global challenge for the 21st century” took place in Brussels. The conference was a Commission initiative in the framework of the STOP II programme and was organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the European Parliament and the Commission. It resulted most significantly in the Brussels Declaration aimed at developing European and international cooperation and encouraging the adoption of concrete measures, norms, good practices and mechanisms to combat and prevent trafficking in human beings. With this aim in mind, the Brussels Declaration makes recommendations on the prevention of trafficking, assisting and protecting victims and police and judicial cooperation.

Domestic violence

Community action to prevent violence against children, young people and women and to protect victims and groups at risk is brought together under the DAPHNE programme. Early in 2003 the Commission issued a proposal on the second phase of Community action, DAPHNE II (2004-2008). This proposal is similar in structure to that of the initial DAPHNE programme (2000-2003) and draws on the experience gained through the first programme.

Other initiatives

Serious attention has also been paid to a number of worrying situations, including the condition of women in Afghanistan, the stoning of women and the integration of Muslim women into European society.

OUTLOOK FOR 2003

The Commission’s work programme for 2003 will include the following horizontal priorities for all its services:

  • gender impact assessment will be incorporated into the overall impact assessment of new proposals and gender mainstreaming will continue in new areas;
  • each service will increase its efforts to obtain gender-specific data, to systematically break down all related statistics by gender and to establish gender equality indicators;
  • each DG and service will incorporate gender mainstreaming modules into their training plans for all staff, particularly those at management level.

The Commission will launch an open consultation on possible guidelines for the recasting of existing Directives in the field of equal treatment. Furthermore, in 2003 the Commission intends to present a report on the implementation of the Directive on parental leave, looking in particular at the reasons why fathers fail to exercise this right. Lastly, the Greek and Italian presidencies will prepare an analysis, including indicators, of women in decision-making.

4) Implementing Measures

5) Follow-Up Work

 

Equality between men and women

Equality between men and women

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Equality between men and women

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Equality between men and women

Equality between women and men is one of the fundamental principles of Community law. The European Union?s (EU) objectives on gender equality are to ensure equal opportunities and equal treatment for men and women and to combat any form of discrimination on the grounds of gender. The EU has adopted a two-pronged approach to this issue, combining specific measures with gender mainstreaming. The issue also has a strong international dimension with regard to the fight against poverty, access to education and health services, taking part in the economy and in the decision-making process, women’s rights and human rights.

GENERAL FRAMEWORK

Gender mainstreaming

  • Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015
  • Strengthening the commitment to equality between women and men: a women’s charter
  • Roadmap for equality between women and men (2006-2010)
  • Fifth Community Action Programme on Equal Opportunities (2001-2006)
  • Incorporation of equal opportunities into Community policies

Financial aspects

  • Community programme for employment and solidarity – PROGRESS (2007-2013)
  • European Progress Microfinance Facility (EPMF)
  • EQUAL
  • Gender mainstreaming within the Structural Funds
  • Promotion of organisations active in the field of equality between men and women (2004-2006)

Reports

  • Report on equality between women and men – 2009
  • Report on equality between women and men – 2008
  • Report on equality between men and wome 2007
  • Report on equality between women and men 2006
  • Report on equality for men and women, 2005
  • Report on equality between men and women, 2004
  • Report on equal opportunities 2002
  • Equal opportunities report 2001

Institutional aspects

  • European Institute for Gender Equality
  • Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women
  • Gender balance within the committees and expert groups set up by the Commission

PRINCIPLE OF NON-DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SEX

  • The principle of equal treatment for men and women outside the labour market
  • Burden of proof in cases of discrimination based on sex

FEMALE EMPLOYMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Employment

  • Tackling the pay gap between men and women
  • Gender equality in the labour market
  • Equal treatment as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion
  • Self-employed workers: equal treatment between men and women
  • Equal treatment of self-employed workers (until 2012)
  • Equal pay
  • Balanced participation of women and men in the decision-making process
  • The integration of women in research

Social dimension

  • Parental leave
  • Promoting solidarity between the generations
  • Balanced participation of women and men in family and working life
  • Protection of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding
  • Childcare
  • Social security: equal treatment for men and women
  • Parental leave and leave for family reasons
  • Occupational pension schemes

COMBATING SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Combating sexual harassment

  • Protection of the dignity of women and men at work
  • Code of practice to clamp down on sexual harassment at work
  • Preventing sexual harassment at work

Combating violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking in women

  • New measures to combat trafficking in women
  • Trafficking in women for the purpose of sexual exploitation

INTERNATIONAL DIMENSION OF EQUALITY BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

  • Strategy for gender equality in development policy
  • Fourth United Nations Conference on Women

Balanced participation of women and men in family and working life

Balanced participation of women and men in family and working life

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Balanced participation of women and men in family and working life

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Equality between men and women

Balanced participation of women and men in family and working life

Document or Iniciative

Resolution of the Council and of the Ministers for Employment and Social Policy, meeting within the Council of 29 June 2000, on the balanced participation of women and men in family and working life [Official Journal C 218 of 31.7.2000].

Summary

This resolution follows on from the Lisbon European Council (23-24 March 2000), which recognised the importance of furthering all aspects of equal opportunities, including making it easier to reconcile working and family life.

The principle of equality between men and women makes it essential to offset the disadvantage faced by women with regard to conditions for access to and participation in the labour market and the disadvantage faced by men with regard to participating in family life. These gender-based disadvantages result from predetermined social models that tend to presuppose that women are chiefly responsible for unpaid work related to looking after a family. On the other hand, paid work derived from an economic activity tends to be seen to be mainly the responsibility of men.

The balanced participation of women and men on the labour market and in family life is essential to the development of society. Maternity, paternity and the rights of children are essential values that need to be safeguarded by society, the Member States and the European Community.

The objective of balanced participation of men and women in family and working life, coupled with the objective of balanced participation of men and women in the decision-making process, constitute two particularly relevant conditions for equal opportunities.

The Member States are encouraged to develop global, integrated strategies that take account of the following aspects:

  • examine the scope for granting working men a right to paternity leave, maintaining their rights relating to employment, and rights likely to allow them to provide major support for family life;
  • reinforce measures to encourage balanced sharing between working men and women of the care to be provided for children, elderly, disabled or other dependent persons;
  • reinforce measures to encourage the development of support services for families, especially the improvement of child-care structures;
  • grant, where appropriate, specific protection to single-parent families;
  • examine the possibility of harmonising school and working hours (by organising school programmes);
  • develop incentives and support measures for non-governmental organisations committed to promoting equal opportunities;
  • devise, launch and promote information and awareness campaigns to develop more progressive outlooks among both the general public and specific target groups;
  • encourage businesses, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, to introduce and develop management practices that take account of their workers’ family life.

As employers, the institutions and bodies of the European Community are called on to implement measures to promote the balanced recruitment and career advancement of men and women and to evaluate the results thereof periodically and to have them published.

The Commission is called on to take into consideration the conclusions of the new Community framework strategy on equality between women and men. Within the framework of Community programmes, it is also called on to step up its information and awareness effort and its efforts to promote research and to introduce pilot schemes to implement the balanced participation of men and women in family and working life. It is also encouraged to take account of this resolution in its fifth action programme ifth action programme on equal opportunities for men and women. This will involve placing emphasis on equality of family responsibilities of men and women in the strategic objectives of the programme and giving sufficient prominence to measures to promote the balanced participation of men and women in working and family life.

At national and European level, employers in the public and private sectors, workers and the social partners are called on to step up their efforts to ensure balanced participation of men and women in family and working life, notably through the organisation of working time and the abolition of conditions which lead to wage differentials between men and women.

Context

The reconciliation of family and working life was the priority topic in the calls for proposals launched under the fifth Community action programme on equal opportunities for men and women.

Improved reconciliation of family and working life is one of the guidelines of the European Employment Strategy and is included in the common objectives of the European social inclusion process (combating of poverty and social exclusion).

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 3 October 2008 – A better work-life balance: stronger support for reconciling professional, private and family life[COM(2008) 635 – Not published in the Official Journal].
This communication analyses the policies and measures taken on national and Community levels to help citizens to balance their professional and family lives. It presents the measures of the “reconciliation package”.

The reconciliation of these two aspects by European citizens may indeed have an impact on European strategies for growth and jobs, social inclusion and gender equality. It may also have a positive influence on birth rates.

The Commission is presenting two new legislative proposals, corresponding to the objectives of the Renewed Social Agenda. In particular with regard to the revision of measures concerning family-related leave (such as maternity leave, Directive 92/8/EEC) and equal treatment of self-employed workers and their assisting spouses (Directive 86/613/EEC). Moreover, the “reconciliation package” also contains a report on the implementation by Member States of targets in terms of childcare services.

In addition, the Commission must encourage the exchange of experience and good practices in these domains, as wells as statistics on a Europe-wide basis. It supports the co-financing initiatives of the Cohesion Policy and in particular the European Social Fund (ESF).

Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan

Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Employment and social policy > Social measures for target groups: disability and old age

Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan (2004-2010)

Document or Iniciative

Commission Communication of 30 October 2003, Equal opportunities for people with disabilities: a European action plan [COM(2003) 650 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The proposed action plan, covering the period from 2004 to 2010, seeks to set out a sustainable and operational approach to disability issues in the enlarged Europe. It has three central objectives:

  • to implement fully the Directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation;
  • to reinforce mainstreaming of disability issues in the relevant Community policies;
  • to improve accessibility for all.

POLICY CONTEXT

The overall Community approach: objectives and means

The main purpose of the action plan is to recognise and protect the rights of people with disabilities. Moreover, the Charter of Fundamental Rights specifically protects the rights of people with disabilities, and its incorporation into the future Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe will be a major advance.

In accordance with the Commission’s communication of May 2000 “Towards a barrier-free Europe for people with disabilities”, the environmental, technical and legal obstacles to the effective participation of people with disabilities in a knowledge-based economy and society must be removed.

Facts and trends

The definitions and criteria applying to disability are currently laid down in national legislation and differ from one Member State to another.

According to the results of surveys carried out in 2001 at EU level, 14.5% of the population of the 15 Member States (with the exception of Sweden) of working age (16 to 64) reported some form of disability.
In the case of the ten new acceding States, this percentage amounts to 25%.
These results also highlight the fact that there is a correlation between ageing and disability. Owing to the ageing of the population and improvements in health care, the number of people with disabilities in the European Union is increasing and will continue to do so.
A further point to note is that only 42% of people with disabilities are employed (compared to almost 65% of non-disabled people), and 52% of people with disabilities are economically inactive (compared to 28% of non-disabled people).
The conclusion to be drawn is that people with disabilities, while experiencing difficulties in finding work, are a source of untapped potential for the development of economic growth.

Main Community-level achievements

In November 2000, the Council adopted Directive 2000/78/EC prohibiting all discrimination, whether direct or indirect, based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, as regards access to employment. Where disability is concerned, this Directive recognises that the failure to provide “reasonable accommodation” in the workplace can constitute discrimination.

The Community action programme to combat discrimination (2001-06) aims to support the Member States in their fight against discrimination, including disability-related aspects.

The Commission supports international efforts geared to ensuring that fundamental rights are enjoyed fully and equally by people with disabilities. The Commission thus backs the United Nations Convention for promoting and protecting the rights of people with disabilities (see communication entitled ” Towards a United Nations legally binding instrument to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities “).

With a view to facilitating the free movement of people with disabilities, the Commission has already undertaken to reduce the number of disability benefits that are not exportable from one Member State to another (proposed amendment of Regulation (EEC) No 883/2004 on social security schemes).

First phase of the action plan (2004-2005)

The first phase of this action plan, covering a two-year period (2004-05), will concentrate on creating the conditions necessary to promote the employment of people with disabilities, granting them appropriate autonomy in this regard.
The priority action areas come under four headings:

  • Access to, and remaining in, employment

Directive 2000/78/EC requires certain Member States to alter their existing rules considerably. It has huge implications for employers – public and private – and their employment practices as regards people with disabilities. Effective application of this Directive depends on the key players being made aware of their duties and responsibilities.

The main European Social Fund programmes and the Community initiative EQUAL finance a wide range of measures aimed at integrating people with disabilities into the labour market, while taking innovative approaches to specific aspects of such integration.

The Commission has also taken action in the field of competition policy with the adoption, in November 2002, of a Regulation on State aid for employment, allowing the Member States to finance up to 60% of annual wage costs and social security contributions when companies recruit disabled workers. Aid may also be granted to compensate for reduced productivity or to adapt premises.

As regards health and safety at work, Directive 89/654/EC concerning minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace provides that “workplaces must be accommodated to take account, where required, of the needs of disabled workers”.

  • Lifelong learning

The use of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) providing on-line instruction or “eLearning” can be one way of overcoming the barriers to education, training and learning on a lifelong basis that are faced by people with disabilities. The Commission’s proposed eLearning programme therefore refers expressly to the needs of people with disabilities, as do the action plans on language learning and linguistic diversity, and on skills and mobility.

The Commission will have to pursue various lines of action in the fields of education, training and youth:

  • give high priority to promoting exchanges of good practice and identifying factors of success (or failure) in relation to the integration of people with disabilities, in connection with the implementation of the work programme on the objectives of education and training syatems;
  • pay particular attention, in terms of the design and implementation of the future eLearning action programme (2004-06), to the special needs of people with disabilities;
  • include people with disabilities as a target group in the PLOTEUS information system;
  • pay particular attention to projects involving people with disabilities in the Socrates, Leonardo and Youth programmes;
  • monitor the e-accessibility of websites and media products for lifelong learning.

On the research front, the Commission will disseminate and exploit the results of studies forming part of the Sixth Framework Research Programme (6FP).

  • Harnessing the potential of new technologies

Activities relating to accessibility, under the e-Europe 2002 action plan, gave some good results and ought to be followed up. Further to the W3C/WAI initiative, the Member States have adopted accessibility guidelines for public websites. The Council also adopted a resolution on e-accessibility in December 2002.

The eEurope 2005 action plan will seek to ensure that people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups can participate in and have equal access to major innovations in on-line public services, covering e-government, e-learning and e-health, and also to create a dynamic, accessible e-business environment.

  • Accessibility to the public built environment

The design and construction of buildings in compliance with the principle of universal design (“design-for-all”) ought to be stepped up so that people with disabilities are guaranteed better and effective access to the workplace.

The availability of accessible cultural and leisure facilities is also essential for improving the quality of life of people with disabilities. The Council recognised this in its resolution of 6 May 2003 on accessibility of cultural infrastructure and cultural activities for people with disabilities. Likewise, in its resolution of 21 May 2002 on the future of European tourism, the Council called on the Commission, the Member States and other interested parties to step up their efforts to facilitate accessibility to tourist sites for people with disabilities.

Moreover, in its White Paper entitled “European transport policy for 2010: time to decide”, the Commission advocates greater use of accessible public transport.

The Commission ought to take further action in the following areas:

  • promotion of European standards in relation to all aspects of the built environment, including the planning, design, construction and use of buildings;
  • promotion of better education on accessibility issues in schools and among professionals;
  • incorporation of accessibility provisions in public procurement policies, taking this dimension into account also in the allocation of the Structural Funds;
  • encouragement for the development of studies into the accessibility of tourist sites and infrastructure, and of urban transport systems.

Second phase of the action plan (2006-2007)

The second phase of the action plan, covering a two-year period (2006-07), will focus on active inclusion and autonomy (right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community). It proposes four priorities:

  • Encouraging activity
  • Promoting access to quality support and care services
  • Fostering accessibility of goods and services for all
  • Increasing the EU’s analytical capacity

MONITORING AND FOLLOW-UP STRUCTURE

Improving executive capacity

The Commission’s Inter-service Group dealing with disability issues is responsible for advancing the action plan and monitoring the mainstreaming activities of the various Commission departments. It also has to give a progress report to the Equal Opportunities Group of Commissioners.

The European High-Level Group for matters relating to disability (expert group chaired by the Commission, bringing together specialists from the Member States) has the task of developing greater interaction between national policies.

The Union will step up its cooperation with organisations such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the European Standards Organisations (e.g. CEN), the European Special Needs Education Agency and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, so as to build mutually rewarding relationships and to benefit from their expertise and their think-tank work.

Strengthening governance

The Commission proposes to enhance its cooperation with the representatives of associations for people with disabilities, in particular with the European Disability Forum. It also wants the High-Level Group to conduct exchanges of views more frequently with civil society. The social partners should, moreover, be invited to make a full contribution to the promotion of equality for people with disabilities.

The Commission will encourage inter-institutional cooperation amongst EU institutions and bodies, in particular with the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and its Disability Intergroup.

Commission report on the situation of people with disabilities

The Commission’s report on people with disabilities should draw specific attention to the efforts made under Community policies to promote equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Key contributions from the Member States will set out their achievements, particularly as regards mainstreaming disability issues in all relevant national policies. The Commission is to compile public reports every two years, in line with a structure established with the Member States and representatives of people with disabilities.

 

A framework strategy for non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all

A framework strategy for non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about A framework strategy for non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Anti-discrimination and relations with civil society

A framework strategy for non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 1 June 2005 – Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities for All – A Framework Strategy [COM(2005)224 – Official Journal C 236 of 24.9.2005].

Summary

Ensuring effective legal protection against discrimination

In 2000, the European Union (EU) adopted two Directives (Directive 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC) prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age and sexual orientation. These texts contain precise definitions of direct and indirect discrimination and of harassment. They also allow certain exceptions to the principle of equal opportunities, which are defined as legitimate in a limited range of circumstances.

Substantial changes in Member States’ legislation as a direct consequence of the adoption of these Directives have been observed in recent years. However, the Commission has noticed that some important provisions have not been fully transposed.

The Commission also wishes to support the back-up measures (dissemination of information, awareness-raising, the sharing of experiences, training, access to justice, etc.) aimed at ensuring the application of and effective compliance with anti-discrimination legislation. This is achieved through the “non-discrimination and diversity” strand of the PROGRESS programme (Community programme for employment and social solidarity).

Finally, the Council has reached an agreement on the proposed framework decision of 2001 establishing common standards for combating racial crime, including anti-Semitism and offences against other religious minorities. The Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law was adopted on 28 November 2008.

Possible measures to complement the current legislative framework

Under the current EC legal framework, racial discrimination is prohibited in the areas of employment, training, education, social protection, social benefits and access to goods and services (Directive 2000/43/EC). The scope of protection against discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation is limited to employment, work and vocational training (Directive 2000/78/EC). Directive 2004/113/EC extends protection against sexual discrimination to the area of goods and services, but not to other areas covered by Directive 2000/43/EC.

The Commission initiated a feasibility study concerning new initiatives to complement the current legal framework. It examined the national provisions that go beyond Community requirements and took stock of the advantages and disadvantages of such measures.

Mainstreaming non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all

The Commission wishes to create tools to promote a mainstreaming approach that will incorporate the objective of non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all into Community policies. This integrated approach should help to focus especially on situations of multiple discrimination.

Promotion and use of innovation and good practices

On the basis of the EQUAL Community initiative, the European Social Fund (ESF) for the period 2007-13 focuses on ensuring greater social inclusion of people with disabilities and on combating discrimination. The PROGRESS programme complements the activity of the ESF in the fields of equality between men and women and combating discrimination.

The new generation of programmes in the field of education, training and youth can make a valuable contribution to the promotion of non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all. Likewise, in the field of immigration and asylum, the INTI (integration of third-country nationals) and ARGO (administrative cooperation in the fields of external borders, visas, asylum and immigration) programmes can contribute to the fight against discrimination.

Raising awareness and cooperating with stakeholders

With a view to ensuring a more positive approach to equality, the European Parliament and the Council declared 2007 the “European Year of Equal Opportunities for All”. This Year centred on four top-priority objectives: rights, recognition, representation and respect. 2007 was linked to the year 2008, which was devoted to intercultural dialogue.

The Commission also proposed organising an annual summit on equality, which would involve ministers, heads of national organisations dealing with equality, presidents of European NGOs, European social partners and representatives from international organisations. The first Equality Summit took place on 30-31 January 2007 together with the conference marking the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All. Moreover, the Commission is particularly keen to work with employers in order to encourage and support non-discrimination at the workplace.

A special effort to protect disadvantaged ethnic minorities

The enlarged EU must define a coherent and effective approach to the social and labour market integration of ethnic minorities. The situation of the Roma is particularly worrying; despite the projects carried out under the PHARE programme, they remain the target of discrimination and exclusion.

EC legislation on combating discrimination prohibits any direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, or religion. In the context of the European Employment Strategy, Member States were encouraged to develop measures to facilitate the labour market integration of minorities under their National Action Plans. The open method of coordination on social integration also targets poverty and exclusion experienced by ethnic minorities, migrants and other disadvantaged groups. EU financial support is available through the ESF.

Enlargement, relations with third countries and international cooperation

The Commission will ensure the promotion of non-discrimination and equal opportunities for all in the context of enlargement and in relations with third countries through:

  • the use of pre-accession instruments to finance the promotion of non-discrimination;
  • the defence of human rights, including respect for minorities, which forms an integral part of the political accession criteria;
  • its European Neighbourhood Policy;
  • a financial instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights;
  • cooperation on projects launched by NGOs and international organisations.

The Commission is cooperating with international organisations to guarantee coherence, complementarity and a clear division of labour. In particular, it is working together with the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations (UN) (it actively participated in the Fourth World Conference on Women, the work of the World Conference Against Racism and the development of a new UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).

Background

This Communication follows on from the Green Paper on equality and non-discrimination in an enlarged EU, adopted by the European Commission on 28 May 2004. It takes account of the comments and reactions submitted by national authorities, specialised equal-opportunities bodies, non-governmental organisations, regional and local authorities, the social partners, experts, and individual members of the public.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 2 July 2008 – Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: A renewed commitment [COM(2008) 420 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
With this Communication, the Commission is providing a comprehensive approach through which its commitment to further non-discrimination and equal opportunities in the EU is renewed. This includes finalising the existing legal framework on anti-discrimination, promoting dialogue on non-discrimination policy and strengthening the existing policy tools to fight discrimination and promote equal opportunities.

Commission Decision 2006/33/EC of 20 January 2006 establishing a high-level advisory group on social integration of ethnic minorities and their full participation in the labour market [Official Journal L 21 of 25.1.2006].
In order to develop a coherent and effective approach to the social integration of disadvantaged ethnic minorities and to their full participation in the labour market, an advisory group has been established in the Commission. Its tasks are to analyse how to ensure social integration of ethnic minorities and to submit, before the end of the “2007 European Year of Equal Opportunities for All”, a report containing recommendations on the policies to be implemented in this connection.

Decision No 771/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 May 2006 establishing the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007) – towards a just society [Official Journal L 146 of 31.5.2006].

Green Paper of 28 May 2004 – Equality and non-discrimination in an enlarged European Union [COM(2004) 379 final – Not published in the Official Journal].